Chocolate, or as I like to refer to it, heaven on earth, is produced from the beans found inside large pods that grow on cacao trees. These trees are found only within 20 degrees of the equator. Cacao (pronounced ka-kow) farms in exotic places like the Ivory Coast of Africa, Indonesia, and Columbia grow the chocolate for the entire world. Each area produces pods with very distinct flavors (think regional, like wine, where the most astute palates can detect the terroir). But to us everyday consumers and lovers of chocolate, it is more about the amount of pure chocolate included in the mix.

To start the process, the cocoa beans are removed from the pods, dried, fermented, roasted, and then crushed and processed. The cocoa butter is removed leaving “chocolate liquor.”

The cocoa butter is then added back to the liquor in various amounts to make different types of chocolate. Sugar and flavorings are also added to create flavored or market-appealing varieties.

The most common types of chocolate and their components include:

  • Cocoa powder has a range of 10 to 25% cocoa butter added back to the liquor. Unsweetened cocoa powder is used in baking cakes, cookies, and in puddings and pie fillings.
  • Unsweetened chocolate, or baker's chocolate, has only about 5% cocoa butter added back. Bakers chocolate is also used in baked goods and desserts.
  • Bittersweet chocolate is hugely popular and can have a range of 15 to 50% cocoa butter added to the liquor. Sometimes a small percent of sugar or flavorings are added. Bittersweet chocolate is extremely popular for eating out of hand or added to baked goods and desserts for deeper chocolate flavor.
  • Semi-sweet chocolate has about 15% cocoa butter and about 40% sugar added. Think chocolate chips for cookies and such.
  • Milk chocolate has only 10% chocolate liquor, about 20% cocoa butter, about 50% sugar, and about 15% milk solids, plus various flavorings and emulsifiers added. Milk chocolate is probably the most popular chocolate in America for eating straight from the wrapper.
  • White chocolate doesn’t include ANY amount of chocolate liquor. In fact, it is made from cocoa butter, milk, flavorings, and sugar. It’s a mystery to me why anyone would want to eat white chocolate, but they do.